Dudes, Relax: The Rise Of Women Does Not Mean the Fall of Men


Attention, men: I know the world is scary and weird right now. I know things are changing a little bit. I know that some of the women are restless and we complain sometimes and sometimes they let us make TV shows and say our opinions real loud. Sometimes we tell you about things you’re doing—things you weren’t even aware of, maybe—that bother us, and that hurts you, because you like to think of yourselves as good, progressive, helpful dudes. But PLEASE CHILL OUT. Women becoming more vocal about our dissatisfaction does not mean that that dissatisfaction didn’t exist before. It just means we’re ready to tell you about it.

In an epically impenetrable panic-flop for September’s Esquire, Stephen Marche writes about the new “female gaze of contempt” that he feels has permeated our current culture. Women, it seems, are being hella mean to the poor delicate man-flowers, who are just trying to enjoy their penises and corner offices in peace without the the distraction of incessant estrogen-soaked side-eye. Nevermind the fact that this “contempt” upon which Marche hangs his column appears to exist mainly within Marche’s imagination.

I can’t even make any big conceptual criticisms of the piece, because honestly I have no idea what his point is. Women are mean? Men are oppressed? Except when they’re not? It’s not fair that women don’t have to work in coal mines? Homer Simpson is a feminist conspiracy? Stephen Marche is colicky and needs a nap? Beats me. Responding to this essay feels like fighting some sort of weird hydra except instead of heads it has poorly articulated ideas and instead of teeth it has frustratingly irrelevant facts. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Stephen Marche and I are on the same side here. I don’t know. But here’s my point: Men shouldn’t complain about women complaining until the playing field is fucking level. Women clawing ourselves 1% closer to equality does not signal the fall of man, nor does it justify 1000 words of flailing self-pity and accusations of “whining.” I can’t argue against this piece as a whole, not when the takeaway makes no sense and/or is possibly nonexistent, but I can take it line by line. Let’s go!

The Contempt of Women
The rise of men. And the whining of girls.

Hoooo boy. Way to give your whiny article about whining the whiniest headline of all time! There’s no such thing as “the rise of men” because something cannot rise when it’s already at the top. Actually, no. Men aren’t even “at” the top—they are the top. Men built the power structure, men control the power structure, and men benefit from the power structure. That’s like if I wrote an article called “The Rise of Ice Cream” and was all, fuck, yeah! Ice cream is back! Oh man, finally, ice cream is getting some respect. Ice cream was really oppressed for five seconds there when people got all excited about frozen custard, but now ice cream is taking back the night. Ice cream is licking the competition. Justice is served, with nuts! (I would put lots of italicized dessert puns in my ice cream article.)

In the constantly progressing and deteriorating and rapidly revolving kaleidoscope of misunderstanding and disgust and hunger that constitutes gender relations in the twenty-first century, a new gesture has emerged to define us: the sneer, the female gaze of contempt.

Really? Sneering female contempt is what defines gender relations in the twenty-first century? That’s weird, because I would have guessed, like, R. Kelly. Or sexting. Or men telling women they’re crazy for wanting to be treated like adults.

Feminine contempt is suddenly everywhere, subtly and invidiously panoramic, in public life and in private life, in the bedroom and on television and in bookstores and on the campaign trail.

Just a thought: perhaps, if you’re feeling overwhelming contempt from everyone you meet, it’s because you’re just a contemptible kind of guy.

The sexuality of the moment is all about contempt. In Lena Dunham’s hit show Girls, which has succeeded so admirably in providing American critics with a moment of convenient generational definition, the men are pitiable and grotesque. Whether rough or tender or vanilla, they fail…In Girls, sex is to be endured, the subject of a shivering, melancholy fascination.

First of all, this is stupid. “Culture” is huge and slow. It doesn’t just suddenly morph into a completely new animal because Girls has existed for one season. Life continues outside of Girls; way more people don’t watch Girls than do watch Girls; the rest of the world is the same as it was before Girls. That’s not to say that media doesn’t influence culture, but to declare, “Oh no, Girls has undermined my entire being because Hannah is kind of a sourpuss!” is disingenuous and lazy.

And second of all, has Marche actually watched Girls past the first episode? I’d say that just as many male characters succeed as fail. The main romantic storyline is Lena Dunham trying to get her boyfriend to like her more. He’s kind of a dick, but she likes him because he’s also an interesting dude who does interesting stuff. It’s complicated. You know, like ACTUAL REAL-LIFE PEOPLE. Their sex life is weird and unsatisfying—but that’s an experience that, clearly, a lot of women relate to. Would Marche prefer that those women’s experiences not be told? Should we just go back to a standard virgin/whore continuum? Would that be more comfortable?

In Sex and the City, the women commoditized men, often in the most banal way, but at least they liked what the men had to offer: cocks and money and status and sometimes even support.

Yes, okay. Clearly. Sex and the City has better gender dynamics because both virgins and whores appreciate boners more. Duly noted.

Fifty Shades of Grey—the best-selling book series of the year—is a letter from the country of sexual abjection. There have been a million books by a million writers about women who like to be slapped around, but Fifty Shades of Grey is new insofar as it interiorizes the sadomasochism and cleverly inverts it. Fifty Shades of Grey is a book devoted to the following thought: Jeez, can you believe how gross this guy is? Anastasia Steele, despite her classy name, is the kind of woman who says “jeez” in bed a lot. “Jeez” – the world’s most potent boner-killer.

SIR. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE MORE SPECIFIC. I do not know what “interiorizes the sadomasochism and cleverly inverts it” means, and I am, like, at least medium-smart. Respectfully, it is not my responsibility as a reader to figure it out—it is your responsibility as a writer to explain it. Anyway, kindly stop making generalizations about my feminine behavior and attitude based on Fifty Shades of FAHKING Grey. It’s rude.

Contempt for men has become so widespread and acceptable that it’s a commonplace for politicians’ wives. Michelle Obama loves to describe her husband’s morning breath and struggles with smoking and failure to put away his socks. Her pull quote: “He’s a gifted man, but he’s just a man.” Got that, boys? You can be editor of the Harvard Law Review, first African-American president, director of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, loving husband and father, and an innovator of “absorption marijuana ingestion” to boot, but in the end “just a man.”

Right. God forbid Michelle Obama refer to her husband—who is, literally, a human man—as anything less than a shining god-king. Also, do you know how Michelle Obama and Barack Obama met? She was his boss. She’s arguably as professionally accomplished in every way as our magical Harvard Law Review first black prez, so maybe go ahead and treat her a little bit less like “just a woman”? Just a “politician’s wife”? Just a thought.

This is what the political operatives call “humanizing the candidate”: Contempt for men is what ordinary women understand.

So now you’re using this premise you made up—that women looooooove “contempt”—to support this premise you made up. No fair.

The Glass Cellar: One of the real triumphs of American men over the past thirty years is that they’ve never taken to gender-based political activism.

Congrats. Congrats on never doing a thing that you’ve never fucking had a need to do. This whole bait-and-switch is such a scam—you give women just enough rope to begin speaking up for ourselves and calling out shitty microaggressions, then you immediately flip it around, triumphantly declare women to be “whiners,” and use that as justification for a pouty “oh, poor men” backlash. Men. You do not get to have a backlash against a lash that hasn’t actually lashed yet. CALL ME AFTER THE LASH.

The arguments have been there to make: There’s a “glass cellar” in the American workforce (men work almost all of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs), male life expectancy is much lower than female life expectancy, and so on. But a politics of male resentment is virtually nonexistent. Organized whining remains, for the overwhelming majority, unmanly.

“I know it’s not FASHIONABLE for men to whine, but I’m hella brave, bros.”

The violence of male sexuality? In parts of the United States, rapes have declined to such a low number that they can’t be charted. Feminine compassion? Violent crime among women is spiking to an unprecedented degree.


As women on television have become smarter and more powerful with every passing year, culminating in Liz Lemon of 30 Rock, the men on television become dumber and grosser and more useless. Homer Simpson becomes stupide [sic] every year. In one episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin is actually declared “mentally retarded.”

Oh god, this fucking thing again. For the dillionth time, men make television. Men created The Simpsons and Family Guy. Men write those characters for men. Men cannot be hurt by depictions in media, because men control media. Depictions of women in media, on the other hand, have been shitty, one-dimensional stereotypes since the invention of women, stereos, types, and shits. Those terrible, hurtful commercials wherein clueless schlubby dads make messes and buttoned-up wives roll their eyes and get to work with the Bounty? Those are still commercials in which women are just cleaning up after dudes like it’s our full-time job. QUIT. CRYING.

The depiction of male/female dynamics on television is a huge problem—but can’t we have an honest discussion about it instead of a made-up one? The problem is that, in general, women on television are not allowed to have flaws, and when someone’s not flawed, they’re not a person. Kevin James’s character on King of Queens is actually a more nuanced character than Leah Remini’s. That’s why 30 Rock is such an amazing, important show—because it stars a female character who’s extremely flawed. Can we talk about that? No? Just more man-feelings? Kay.

The American middle class, [writes Hanna Rosin in The End of Men and the Rise of Women], “is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the workforce and from home, and as women make all the decisions.”

You know what? Maybe that’s true. But can we put the emphasis on “slowly” and “turning into” rather than “is” and “matriarchy”? Because whatever our society is, however many steps closer we’ve gotten to a “matriarchy,” we’ve still had exactly zero female presidents. Almost zero female CEOs. We don’t let women do shit.

Her numbers make a case: Women now have half the jobs in the American workforce. Three quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the recession belonged to men. Of the top fifteen growth industries in America, twelve are almost exclusively the preserve of women.

Her numbers make a case? What case? That women have jobs now? What are the “top fifteen growth industries in America?” Vagina rentals? (I mean, it’s a flash-in-the-pan industry—after a while you’re going to want to own.) Come on dude, tell me SOMETHING SPECIFIC THAT SUPPORTS YOUR POINT. (And also please remind me what your point is.)

And how do men react to these statistics and the contempt that accompanies them?

Again, WHAT STATISTICS? WHAT CONTEMPT? Don’t just tell me this thing exists—show me. Please. I’m literally begging you.

They ignore the statistics and laugh at the contempt – they are American men, after all.

OMG. You are seh. Brehv.

The best and most refined comedians of the moment all take it for granted that the masculine is inherently the stupid, the obese, the miserable, the lazy, the selfish. Take Louis C. K. – his hatred for his own hungers is his best material. Much of Daniel Tosh’s material, both on his show and on tour, is about men’s selfishness, irresponsibility, and general grossness…Can you believe how gross men are? Male comedians go to this safe material for the same reason they do anything: for the approval of women. Rather than resist the contemptuous gaze of women, they have learned to share it.

So men are falling back on jokes about their own “grossness.” That’s all well and good (wait, is it supposed to be good or bad?), but let’s remember that women aren’t even allowed to be gross. When women are gross, it’s not funny—it’s GROSS. I’m terribly sorry you’re so oppressed (wait, or empowered?) by this phenomenon that only your gender is socially liberated enough to have access to.

This willful idiocy cannot help but change. No one aspires to be unemployed and living out of his car, and the message of Hanna Rosin’s book is this: That’s what will happen to these men. There are always going to be stupid men in the world, but the ignorant and insensitive, the uninterested and uncaring, will have no place in it. I suppose I should feel compassion, or some kind of weird gender loyalty, for the guys who can’t figure this out. In all honesty, I don’t. There is no masculinity crisis.

There’s no…what? What now? What are we even talking about, then?

There’s a crisis for idiots. The Tucker Maxes of the world are doomed. That’s not the end of men. It’s the beginning.

AGREED. Wait. Are we fighting or hugging?

Statistics showing the rise of women and fall of men are sobering…

What statistics, what rise of women, what fall of men, etc., cry, fart, repeat.

…but Rosin is really only pointing out trends – when and if and how they translate into real-world power is vague. And as she concedes, women account for only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 17 percent of members of Congress, and 20 of the 180 heads of state. Matriarchy? Really? No. The world’s leading exporter of absurdity has shown the way: Women in Saudi Arabia earn more than half of all undergraduate and doctoral degrees – then they have to be driven to their jobs.

END OF ARTICLE. So the conclusion to your article complaining about women complaining is…that women really do have something to complain about? What did I just read?

Only a small percentage of women even have the opportunity to be mean to men, because men only pay attention to a small percentage of women. This whole thing is like saying, “Oh, black men are always running around dominating white men and taking their jobs!” when the only thing you’ve ever seen is the NBA. Women don’t need to apologize for complaining because 1) complaining is not getting women very far very fast, so don’t sweat it; and 2) women should be complaining. Some ladies are making fun of you on the TV? Well, at least they’re not legislating your genitals, and talking to you like you’re a baby, and passing you over for promotions, and treating you like sexy livestock, and taking you less seriously by default without even thinking about it. Men have regarded women (uppity women, anyway) with contempt for generations. Dishing it out, meet taking it.


Image via qingqing/Shutterstock.

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